The Perfectly Picked Pecan

October 23, 2012



It seems like our pecans have started to drop a bit early this year. Maybe it’s because of Hurricane Isaac, or the non-stop rain we had all summer.  I scooped a few up the other day, cracked them open, and found the quality was fairly decent.

When the nuts popped open, bits of shell flew across the counter.  The meat inside came out in small chunks and I was reminded of the dexterity my Grandmother had to remove the inside portion perfectly intact and unblemished.  My crumbly mess would have made her smile and shake her head.

The immense pecan tree in Grandmother’s backyard dropped truckloads of nuts every year.  She would gather the pecans, crack them open, patiently pick out the “meat” with her pointy metal picker tool, then place the smooth halves in pint sized zip-lock bags.

Pecans still on the trees now in Fairhope.

After an Autumn visit, Grandmother would send me home with several bags and I would stick them in my freezer. All throughout the holiday season, I would go to these bags for my recipe needs. Pies, cookies, dressing, cakes and sweet potato casseroles, all got a generous portion of perfectly picked pecans.  I would always alert my children when they ate the bounty, “These are Granny’s pecans.  She picked these out just for us!”

But like so many other chores completed by others, I took for granted all the time and skill it had taken for Grandmother to “pick out” the pecans.

Until one fall, when she was no longer there to do it for me.

After Grandmother was gone, when the family gathered to settle matters at her house, we solemnly assembled round her upright freezer, and there, quietly and slowly, opened the door.

As the bright light and cold air poured out in foggy clouds, we stood in awe of the neatly stacked bags of that year’s frozen pecans, okra, field peas, and a half dozen other gifts from the garden. A frozen feast was before us, sparkling with ice crystals like treasured jewels.

It was the last supper, so to speak.

Part of Grandmother’s secret to achieving the smooth halves was using a pecan cracker like this.  
Most families around here have one like it in their house.  I guess it’s time for me to find one. 

During that year, I used the final bags of Grandmother’s pecans sparingly, not wanting to run out or waste even one.

The following year, I gathered my own pecans and sat for hours fumbling and mumbling not-so-nice things about how difficult it was to produce an unscarred pecan half. My bags of broken pecan fragments ended up with sharp chips of shell in them. Not what you want to find in a chewy cookie.

And did I mention Grandmother picked those pecans halves for me every year with hands twisted from arthritis?

I keep trying. I keep trying. I keep trying.

I’m determined to master the perfectly picked pecan yet.

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